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般若智慧 –观照

Viewed 200 times 2018-11-3 09:46 |System category:News

In the second part of the essay, we try to understand the deeper meaning of ‘般若智慧’ and ‘心到力到’ so that the students can enhance their confidence in the teaching. I must point out that the following is not some dharma dictum, they are only my interpretation of the dharma based on my experience and understanding. To begin, we need to briefly describe the very nature of our reality or the third dimension from the perspective of karma. Assuming you are in heaven (欲界天) and is having a good time (享福) and as mentioned before pleasures will lead to greed or the fear of losing something. Then someone in heaven ask you to help out with some work but due to the subconscious fear of losing, you will develop the idea you may lose some energy if you help this person, and after awhile, you will ask this person “what is there in it for me if I help you?” The deep sense of disparity (vector v) between what you have now and what you have to give up if you help created ripples and these ripples later formed what we call the karmic energy fields or obstacles that shaped the dimensions.

As the karmic obstacles accumulated through the years, it will become strong enough to block certain dimensions. Let’s say in the beginning you have access to left, right, up, down, back and front; but as the vector v of gain vs lost (分别) is created, a set of perspective or energy field is created and blocked your access to left and right (remember why the puppy can’t yield to its left or right to navigate the obstacles ahead). As a result, you are left with up, down, front and back, and this is roughly how you ‘fell’ from the higher dimension (heaven) to our third dimension. 

The effects of these karmic energy fields will link you to be reborn in a three dimensional space like earth where everything is shaped by the energy fields of those who have committed very similar types of sins. So while you are on Earth, you got hungry and asked the soil to grow you some fruits, the soil will turn around and asked ‘what is there in it for me if I help you?’ That means the soil will need tillage, irrigation, fertilizer, pesticides, labour and a few years in time in order to produce food. 

While you were in heaven, if you need some food, all that you need to do is to will for it through transubstantiation (心到力到/心想事成), because when the heart is very clear (less ripples) it can reflect everything clearly and get what it wished for. However, because of the greed (and many other sins) induced discrepancies, the heart created many ripples to block its clarity and resulted in the karmic obstacles of needing tillage, irrigation, fertilizer, pesticides, labour and time in order to produce some food. This is the nature of our reality on earth, everything is made up of the karmic energy fields of perspectives, discrepancies and deficiencies or simply put, problems (烦恼/分别执着). From the day we were born we will need food, medicines, shelter; when we grow up we will need knowledge, skills, strength to resolve problems and when we move around, we need to overcome the disparity of distance and time.

Of course, the reason why you fell from Heaven is not just greed alone, it is a very complicated mixture of other karmic entanglement. It is just like the college classmate I mentioned in the previous essay, when she rejected options A,B,C,D and E, her sinful past caused her mind to erect blockages to her left, right, front, back, up and down.  But luckily for her, some of these obstacles were only imaginary and she managed to choose an option at the end and freed herself of her financial difficulty. 

If she continued with her sinful behaviors then technically she will be reborn in one of those third world countries which seem to be mired in obstacles perpetually. We have seen how poverty eradication programs in these countries were obstructed when despotic and corrupt governments embezzled the financial aids, natural calamities like droughts and floods destroyed food crops, infrastructure bottlenecks choked the delivery of resources and disease and parasites killed their livestock. These are not merely imaginary problems like those experienced by my college classmate, these are real problems that never seem to go away; and if the level of sins goes one step deeper, we will be looking at one of those dark and horrific realms where nothing seems to escape.

Thus far, I am explaining the nature of our reality and how they are formed and the main focus of this essay is to show how we can use ‘般若智慧’ to help us navigate the many obstacles we face in our reality. As mentioned before, if you are the CEO of a company, you will be preoccupied most of the time with resolving different sets of discrepancies/unmet needs represented by the interests of the customers, the employees, the board of directors, the shareholders and the authorities. We now try to understand the meaning of discrepancies/perspectives in a slightly different way; if you are a Star Wars fan you will probably have watched ‘Rogue One’ and there was a scene in the movie where Chirrut used his force to shoot down an empire fighter jet which then slammed into a menacing empire cannon on planet Eadu. 

If Chirrut were the CEO, what set of discrepancies/perspectives he had to ‘calculate’ in order to achieve the above feat (shooting the jet at the right time so that it will slam into the cannon)? He will probably need to compute the distance between the jet and the cannon; the speed at which it is travelling; the wind speed and direction that will affect the trajectory of the fall; the spot on the jet where he has to hit in order for resultant explosion to push the jet towards the direction of the canon; the tonsil strength of the steel; the voltage of the blast from his gun and so on. The right shot that can bring the desired result is the same as the equilibrium that the CEO is seeking in order to satisfy all the different groups of people.

If we use our binary thinking (意识心/世智辨聪) then we will need a super smart device which can compute this point of equilibrium very quickly, but Chirrut used what they call ‘the force’ (instinct) which is the ability to ‘观照’ as derived from ’般若智慧’ that I have loosely translated as quantum computing in my previous essay. This is roughly how it works, let’s compare the set of perspectives like wind speed, distance, voltage and etc. as salt, sugar and msg (monosodium glutamate); then you pour all three substance into a container one layer at a time and ask someone to find out the content in the mixture. The only way he can find out what is in the mixture is to sample the whole content and this is analogous to Chirrut using a super smart device to compute the big data to arrive at the right equilibrium point (where and when to shoot). 

On the other hand, if you dissolve all the three ingredients with water, the tester will be able to find out the nature of the mixture with just one taste of a small sample, and this is analogous to how Chirrut used his instinct or ’ 观照’ to spot the same equilibrium point without computing the big data. The reason is that, when you dissolve all the ingredients together, you are turning them from a state of separation to a state of oneness where ‘everything is everything’ (一即是多多即是一) as described in ‘华严经’ (The Avatamsaka Sutra); which I believe is the same as ‘破四相’ in the ‘Diamond Sutra’ (The Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita), or the ‘五蕴皆空’ described in ‘般若心经’ (The Heart Sutra). 

These sutras tried to explain our reality is a kind of hologram (梦幻泡影) and in a hologram, every single pixel of the hologram contains enough information to recreate the entire hologram and that is why ‘一即是多多即是一’.  Because every bit of our reality contains information of the entire universe, Chirrut can practically compute the equilibrium from the air he breathes.

The point of equilibrium can be derived from the dissolved state of oneness because ‘一即是多多即是一’ represents a form of equality, fairness or justice. In other words, if the CEO is able to apportion resources and responsibility to all the different parties according to their merits, skills, capital contribution, mistakes, demerits and authority, then this appropriate apportionment will make everyone feel satisfied and when equality is established, things will be stable and in working order. However, ‘一即是多多即是一’ is a very advance state of consciousness and that is why Confucius taught us an entry level version that espouses everyone plays their roles well accordingly in the society and treat each other with the recommended inclusive moral values; doing so will create an equilibrium that brings peace, prosperity and spiritual development.

One must take note that in practice, ‘一即是多多即是一’  or eradicating ‘分别执着’, as we often hear Buddhists say, does not mean giving everyone the same exact thing. It is like how a judge needs to pass a fair judgment so that both the victim and the guilty get their fair treatment and arrive at a fair settlement (the equilibrium). Usually the victim will be compensated and the guilty will get some form of punishment. So, to eradicate ‘分别执着’ (dissolving discrepancies) does not mean giving the same treatment to everyone or ‘anything goes’, it is to see things as they are so that the right actions can be taken to restore equilibrium. Imagine what will happen if you reward both the victim and the guilty? People will be tempted to do more guilty things. On the other hand, punishing the guilty is not an act of discrimination or cruelty, it is done with the hope that it will remedy the deficiencies in the guilty’s characters so that everyone is made more equal. 

So, the state of ‘一即是多多即是一’ could mean equality and it could also mean coherence like a coherent essay where every points and facts supports or in agreement (equals to) with each other. It is also like a coherent brain where every synapses and brain functions support each other to enable one to carry out an action; and it is comparable to an un-fragmented business work process where all the department heads and their underlings know what each other is doing and are all acting in harmony to achieve common goals.  

All of our skills like computing, acting, dancing, playing music, writing, drawing, designing, playing sports, practicing law and etc. requires the ability to find the equilibrium through logic or equating facts, synchronicity of the body, visualizing proportion, coherence in thinking and writing, harmonizing of sounds and justifying rewards and punishments. If you can perform these tasks well, then your brain is said to be coherent and able to see things as they are to a certain extend. 

They all requires the ability to make different things to work together (a form of everything is everything) like for example, artistic ensembles like orchestra, pop bands, dance groups and acting will be successful if the members can work together to complement one another with each members’ unique function. Or we can also say that learning to do things together can help us all be better persons; for example, the main character, Sebastian in the movie ‘La La Land’ looks like a difficult person who can’t get along very well with just about anyone. However, when he was playing jazz, he can get along and experience a magical congruence with all his band members, it is like music is the tool to help his brain become more coherent and it gave him his moments of peace and contentment. This phenomenon of one for all and all for one is also a form that is close to ‘一即是多多即是一’.

I believe it is for this reason that civilization has created many different industries and trades for different people to develop their minds and bodies. If they can do what is appropriate for them with the right attitude, they can resolve the karma of material and spiritual deficiencies. For example, when we learn to work as a team, we learn to resolve our pride and jealousy; when we negotiate and serve others’ needs, we learn to deal with our greed and anger; patience and perseverance deal with compulsion and so on. If you are able to do these works with honesty and sincerity, it will overcome ignorance because if you say or do things as they are, you will see things as they are. Dishonesty and denial causes a conflict between what is real and false and can cause blockage to our thinking and overall intelligence after awhile.  

When I hear President Xi Jinping said in his 2018 new year speech that the Chinese should “cut paths through mountains and build bridges across rivers”, it struck me that spiritual cultivation is not limited to practicing quietly in secluded places or resigning to our karmic endowments and restraints. During Buddha’s time, he advised one of his disciples who has severe mental impediment to do additional cultivation in the form of sweeping floor because the stress he experienced and the convenience he provided from the extracurricular activity can be used to resolve the injustice he did in the past. Similarly, I believe if we can do work with the right attitude like what I wrote above, spiritual and material development can complement each other to actively resolve our karma and solve the dilemma of materialism vs idealism.


P.S. If you are in a situation where you can let go of worldly things and focus only on cultivation, then the path is a lot easier for you because after all, these material and scientific knowledge is only meant for helping us get by in this realm of much obstacles and perspectives '分别'. For example, once you are in a higher realm, you do not need science to build you a plane to resolve the perspective of distance because you can do it by flying with wings; if you go higher, you can resolve distance by opening worm holes to let you go wherever you wanted and if you are in the ultimate state of infinity (Buddhahood), you would have completely resolved the perspective of distance because you have become omnipresent. So now we understand why the Jedi in 'Star Wars' can do telekenisis, it is because they have partially resolved the perspectives of distance (moving objects) and gravity (weight of objects). That is why it is good for people to experience spiritual cultivation in its various forms such as, ‘八关斋戒’ in the Zen School; ‘打佛七’ in the Pureland school and ‘布萨’ in the Tibetan School. I wrote in the past that my mind felt very light and liberated after attending a three days ‘八关斋戒’, I now know that it is because my mind has become more coherent after the practice. A better description of light and liberated is ‘行云流水’ and I will talk more on this in the future.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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